On the Hospice of the Valleys webpage you will find our mission statement:
We foster reverence for life, relief of suffering, and compassion in loss for the terminally ill residents and their families in the communities we serve.
I've grown a bit reflective in my eighteenth year working at Hospice of the Valleys. I remember years ago a team of us sitting around the table exchanging thoughts and sharing stories and working diligently to find just the right words to express what we deeply believed was the heart of the hospice work to which we'd dedicated our lives. Today, these words stand as solidly for me as they did then.
Eighteen years is a lifetime when you consider the rapidly changing environment of state and federal regulations which shape healthcare/hospice care and the normal changes over time in personnel and leadership teams, let alone the appearance of an unprecedented pandemic. If it is a good one, the mission statement of an organization will hold it fast during the storms which can come in nearly forty years of service to our community. Our mission statement is a testament to the fact. It is what we do, it is who we are, it is how we serve... how we love. Indeed, each of us carries a copy of it attached to our name badges each day. We all know to abandon it would be to our peril.
What does it mean for this hospice worker?
We foster reverence for life: Choice of words is important here. To foster something is to encourage or promote its development...to nourish or feed it. While the word reverence means to hold something in deep respect, its roots from the Old French and Latin give a deeper nuance which is so important here: to reverence means to stand in awe of something. So, to foster reverence for life is to marvel in the miracle of life, and to support and encourage each one in our care to embrace the preciousness of their own life in all of its uniqueness and beauty. One afternoon I heard a sharp crack at my glass door and found on the ground a tiny, what appeared to be broken hummingbird. I knelt and gently picked up the tiny, inert body, and cradled it in the palm of my hand. I wept that such a wondrous and beautiful creature was now still. In what seemed almost just a moment, I was startled by a flurry of motion which suddenly found my hands empty. The bird had just been stunned and was fine. For a few brief seconds, she had stopped to remind me of the reverence for all life.
...relief of suffering... Anyone who has ever been in pain, or been with someone who is in pain, knows the desperation of desire to be freed from that pain. The essential action and intention of hospice care is the relief of suffering: be that from physical, emotional, and /or spiritual pain and distress. There is no more humbling and deeply human experience than watching and hearing and feeling with another the relief of one whose pain has been eased or even lifted. The gift of life returns to them, and light and peace and rest floods into view...blessed relief. We aspire to work towards the relief of suffering in each individual.
...compassion in loss... Hospice acknowledges the sacred duty of extending reverence for a life and relief of suffering to those who must walk the path of loss. Loss is an undeniable companion on a life of love's journeying. To have compassion for someone, quite literally, means to suffer with them. As we empathize with another, we can never fully know what they are feeling. With the outreach of compassion we offer the gift of presence: of simply being with another and feeling in our hearts what it would be like for us to experience what they are now feeling. Hearts reaching out in a caring embrace: the plaintive offering which says, "If I could beat this for you, my friend, I would."
This is more than a mission statement, it is a credo. It is what we call the heart of hospice. It is why we exist in our community. It is the Hospice of the Valleys difference.